The BBC's Skylab: The myth of the mutiny in space shows the image below of one big circular end bulkhead of the main Skylab main space, with an astronaut in the center hatch and giant air manifolds and other things attached to it.

I see four cylindrical devices that look like they are roughly 12 cm in diameter and 70 cn long. They have what looks like metal caps at each end and about half of the length is metal and the other half appears to me to be transparent (e.g. a glass or plastic tube) because it show almost the same color as the surface behind it, except brighter. That increased brightness and possibly other visual cues make me feel as though the transparent section is filled with a liquid.

The transparent section is divided into four sections with what looks like three black lines drawn at the "25%, 50% and 75%" points.

The whole structure looks to me a lot like a giant spirit level.

Question: Did Skylab have several giant spirit levels? That's what these look like to me, except there's no bubble.

enter image description here

above: detail from the full image, cropped and rotated, below example of a spirit level. Source

enter image description here

Skylab: The myth of the mutiny in space


These are lights: I think they are fluorescent tubes with protective covers (you probably don't want them to break...).

It's hard to find really good information. However Skylab: A Guidebook (EP-107) contains a number of photographs which convinced me, at least. And then I eventually found this image:

A mannequin in the Skylab 1-G Trainer at Manned Space Center, Houston

This comes from the Wikipedia page on Skylab so it's not a NASA source, but I think it's reasonably compelling. If I'm right it should be possible to actually go and see the simulator at the MSC to check.

There is further confirmation in MSFC Skylab Orbital Workshop, volume II (warning: large PDF file of a scanned document), which comes directly from NASA. On page 203 (marked '2.2.7-7') of this document there is a picture of one of these lights, and there is a lot of information on them on this page and pages around it. Thanks to Organic Marble for this.

On the other hand, if I got to build spacecraft they would most certainly have spirit levels, as well as rather expensive and ornate wooden panelling and seaspace chests for the crew. Perhaps this is why my proposals keep getting turned down.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: yes your photo looks like a canonical flash photo, where the flash has killed all the ambient light. Besed on the shadow I bet it's 'upside down' (ie the person taking it was rotated by 180 degrees-ish to the other person). In my spaceships there would be more teak. Also I can't see any speaking tubes in that photo. Otherwise good. $\endgroup$ – tfb Mar 20 at 18:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh in case it's not clear, the photo in this answer is of the Skylab mockup in Houston (currently at the Space Center Houston museum). That should explain some of the lighting oddities. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Mar 20 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The rotating guy on a stick gives it away :) This was once the Skylab simulator; moving it from Bldg 5 to SCH was a massive effort. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 20 at 20:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Captain Nemo (if not the entire League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) would approve of your decorating choices. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Mar 20 at 20:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You can read an unbelievably detailed description of the lighting system in MSFC Skylab Orbital Workshop Volume 2 ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19740020216/downloads/… - 42 pages worth. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 22 at 21:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.